System to sell its only Baltimore hospital
By JULIE MINDA
Bon Secours Mercy Health is in negotiations to sell its 68-bed Bon Secours Baltimore Hospital to LifeBridge Health, a nonprofit system with four hospitals and a network of other care facilities in and around Baltimore.
Bon Secours Baltimore Hospital was the first hospital the Sisters of Bon Secours established in the U.S., and the congregation — and then its health system — have invested financially and emotionally in the facility's West Baltimore community.
As part of the community benefit work of Bon Secours Community Works, a dental care technician assesses the oral health of a student in an Early Head Start program.
Those investments have made the hospital an anchor institution and stabilizing force in a struggling low-income area, says Sr. Rose Marie Jasinski, CBS, leader of the Sisters of Bon Secours, USA.
She says the Bon Secours sisters and system will retain a significant presence in West Baltimore going forward. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the system's sole Baltimore hospital will be used to grow community benefit, housing redevelopment and social service initiatives there. Dr. Samuel L. Ross, chief community health officer of Bon Secours Mercy and chief executive of Bon Secours Baltimore Hospital, will lead this work.
Sr. Anne M. Lutz, CBS, says while there is sadness that the hospital no longer will be a part of the ministry, "We are staying in Baltimore … It's about what's best for the community, it's not about buildings. It's about caring for God's people" and meeting their needs. Sr. Lutz is chief sponsorship and mission officer for Bon Secours Mercy Health.
Bricks and mortar
Bon Secours Mercy and LifeBridge announced in late February that they'd signed a letter of intent for LifeBridge to acquire the 100-year-old hospital, as well as a medical office building, behavioral health services and outpatient facilities.
Ross says the organizations plan to complete the sale by Aug. 1. The deal requires the approval of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, as well as authorization from the Vatican, he says. Under LifeBridge, Bon Secours Baltimore Hospital no longer will be a Catholic facility and it will not be required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, according to Ross.
Specifics on the financial aspects of the sale are not available, nor is information on potential staffing and service changes at the hospital. LifeBridge says it intends to maintain round-the-clock emergency services, as well as primary care, behavioral health, community health and other outpatient services after it acquires the facility. According to information from Bon Secours Baltimore, "any decisions about inpatient services will be determined by LifeBridge Health as part of the due diligence process."
Nurse practitioner Sr. Elaine Davia, CBS, treats a patient in a Bon Secours Baltimore Hospital outpatient clinic.
Plans call for the proceeds of LifeBridge's acquisition of the hospital to be paid over six years to the Bon Secours Baltimore Foundation. According to a press release announcing the facility sale, the foundation will use the funds exclusively to establish, continue and expand community-based programming that addresses generational poverty, hunger, violence, and a dearth of safe and affordable housing and employment opportunities in West Baltimore.
This includes community benefit work established by the sisters and hospital under the Community Works program. Community Works provides case management, general equivalency diploma classes, job readiness training, a computer lab, early childhood education, and financial counseling. It also includes housing work under Bon Secours Baltimore's Unity Properties, the housing subsidiary through which Bon Secours Baltimore manages 199 affordable apartment units for families and 529 such units for seniors and people with disabilities.
Stake in the ground
Sr. Lutz says the sisters' commitment to West Baltimore has been unwavering. When the once-prosperous neighborhood began experiencing racial tension and blight, which erupted into rioting in the 1960s, the congregation and hospital made a formal promise to remain in the community. And when residents and businesses — and other hospitals — began fleeing the area's increasing poverty and surging crime in the 1990s and 2000s, the sisters and the Bon Secours hospital remained, intent to help the community address the issues. Today, four women religious — three sisters of Bon Secours and a candidate — reside in in West Baltimore and pursue their respective ministries.
At your service
Sr. Lutz says the sisters and the hospital have committed to listening to the community and providing services in line with what the community says it wants. When the community said it wanted "trash and rats" cleaned out of its neighborhoods, the congregation and system helped arrange and maintain a cleanup. It put young adults to work in gardening and landscape jobs to add some beauty to the neighborhood and build their confidence and work skills.
When the community said it wanted to stop the open sale of illegal drugs and unrelenting violence including murders, the congregation and system worked with the community to develop public safety and crime prevention initiatives.
Zero tolerance policies for drug crimes, targeted policing and mandatory minimum sentencing have disproportionately impacted the African-American population in Baltimore over the years. When the community asked Bon Secours to make it a priority to help returning prisoners reacclimate to society, Bon Secours put its heft into building a robust prison reentry, addiction recovery and workforce development program for men and women.
These and other programs under Bon Secours' Community Works umbrella operate out of a social services building in West Baltimore, across the street from the sisters' residence. Later this spring, Bon Secours Baltimore will begin renovating a former library in West Baltimore as a community resource center that will house expanded Community Works programs and services.
Investment in the future
Sr. Lutz says the hospital sale will be the culmination of decades of discussions and discernment about whether inpatient services are needed in West Baltimore. As patients increasingly bypassed the hospital to seek care at other facilities, the hospital's inpatient bed count was reduced in response to declining demand. According to the press release on the sale, LifeBridge will continue to provide outpatient medical services in West Baltimore and has committed to working with Bon Secours to improve health care access, wellness and prevention services and address the root causes of health disparities.
Sr. Lutz says, "The ZIP codes we serve in Baltimore are some of the worst," when it comes to life expectancy, poverty, unemployment and other socioeconomic indicators, and "we're very committed to meeting the needs of these community members."
Sr. Jasinski says, "We're anxious to know the support of the community going forward, and we welcome everybody's prayers and well wishes for the future of the hospital and also for what we will be attempting to continue to do in the community."
Bon Secours sisters have deep roots in Baltimore
The Baltimore ministry has a special significance for the Sisters of Bon Secours — who currently number 28 in the U.S. — because that city was the sisters' first U.S. ministry, says Sr. Anne M. Lutz, CBS, chief sponsorship and mission officer for Bon Secours Mercy Health.
Traveling from Paris to Baltimore in 1881 at the invitation of the archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal James Gibbons, the founding sisters established the first known formal home health care services in the city. They opened the city's first day care facility for children in 1906. In 1919, they opened Bon Secours Baltimore Hospital.
Over time, the congregation expanded outside of Maryland and set up new health care ministries, primarily in the eastern and midwestern U.S. In 1983, the hospitals joined together as Bon Secours Health System. In 2018, that system merged with Mercy Health to form Bon Secours Mercy Health.
- About 10,000 employees
- Nearly 3,000 physicians
- A total of 1,238 beds among its four hospitals
- Gross patient revenues of more than $1.8 billion
Source: 2016 Annual Report and Community Benefit Summary
Bon Secours Baltimore Health System facts
- 700 employees
- 155 active physicians
- 68 licensed beds
- Gross patient service revenues of more than $171 million
Source: Bon Secours Baltimore Community Report, 2016-2017
Bon Secours Baltimore payor mix
- Medicaid, 51 percent
- Medicare, 30 percent
- Self pay, charity and other, 19 percent
Source: Bon Secours Baltimore Community Report, 2016-2017
Copyright © 2019 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.